Category Archives: Science

Atmospheric Rivers: California Rainmakers

8232“If we went straight up from here to space, took every water vapor molecule, and condensed it into liquid, anybody hazard to guess how deep it might be?”

So queried Marty Ralph, atmospheric scientist and director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes early on in his fascinating exploration of the newest understanding of how precipitable moisture is transported in the atmosphere. The answer to his question is as surprising as what people like him have helped us come to understand about what scientists and meteorologists now call “ARs”, or atmospheric rivers.

Just ten years ago we didn’t have a clear understanding or a name for this phenomenon, but as Marty shows, the advent of new satellite technology made these atmospheric features “…stand out like a sore thumb.”

If the history of their discovery isn’t fascinating enough, what they mean for California, and anywhere else in the world affected by the influence of ARs is stunning in terms of what they can do in terms of damage, as well as ending droughts. Considering the current situation you might find yourself hoping for a bit of an “Arkstorm”. What’s that? You’ll have to watch and see, but I will say, like massive earthquakes, they have happened here before, and they will happen again.

Watch Atmospheric Rivers: California Rainmakers.

Browse more programs in Perspectives on Ocean Science.

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You’ve been invaded – by your Microbiome!

8232“If you like science fiction, I’m going to open with this,” begins David Granet. “You have been invaded. And the invaders are 10 times more than the number of cells in your body. They affect your health, they affect much about what your life does, and about who you are, and what you look like. What are these? It’s your microbiome.”

Microbiome researcher, Rob Knight, Phd joins host David Granet, MD for a fascinating discussion about our massive microbiome.

These tiny organisms have been with us since birth and we continue to acquire them and lose them based on our environment, our diet, and our age. Indeed, various parts of our bodies have different microbiobes which can include bacteria, fungi, and other single-celled organisms.

But don’t panic just yet! According to Knight, we don’t want to wage war on our microbiobes. Instead, he says, “You want to think of them more as a landscape you want to nurture rather than as a battlefield where you want to eliminate everything that is not you.”

So, how might our microbiome affect our health?

Here’s the story of two mice: one skinny and one fat. Each mouse has exactly the same genetics, eats the same foods, and exercises the same amount. Researchers insert the microbiome of one mouse into the other. The skinny mouse becomes fat. The fat mouse becomes skinny.

And it’s not just mice. Our human microbiome has also been shown to impact our health. Rob Knight works with the America Gut project which has collected the microbiome of thousands of people and continues to learn more about how it relates to our health and even our behavior.

“If we can start putting together that map of people who have different medical conditions and the kinds of micriobes that lead them to different places on that microbial map,” says Knight, “then we can tell you a lot more about what’s likely to happen to you, what’s happened already, and potentially what you should do about it.”

“It’s really incredible how they run us,” says Dr. Granet.

Learn more about our incredible microbiome and how it helps to define who we are.

Watch Our Micriobiome – Health Matters.

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The Mind and Methods of V.S. Ramachandran

8232“A lot of the time when you think the patient is crazy, it means you’re not smart enough to figure it out.” – V.S. Ramachandran

Seeing numbers as colors. Feeling the pain from a phantom limb. Sensing shadowy figures around your bed. V.S. Ramachandran, PhD studies these seeming anomalies of the mind to discover the bigger questions about how our brains function. Dive in to a fascinating conversation as he joins William Mobley, MD, PhD to discuss his fascinating career and his scientific process.

Watch The Mind and Methods of V.S. Ramachandran on The Brain Channel.

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How did language evolve? New CARTA series explores the evolution of language.

8232Language. In all its forms. We use it everyday, all the time, without thinking, as innately (we might think) as a bird sings…

But the acquisition of this human capacity is a long and complex process, aided by neuro- and physiological specialization born out of the forge of evolution. So when you stop and think a moment, language poses many mysteries.

This new CARTA symposium brings together the world’s top experts in many facets of language to address those and other questions. When and how does language develop structure? What can the differences between old and new, spoken and sign languages, tell us about the evolution of language? Why and how does language evolve over time? And how have our brains evolved both with and for the purpose of language?

Watch this fascinating series on one of humanity’s essential elements: CARTA: How Language Evolves.

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Critical Thinking and Imagination in Science, with Ryan Shenvi

8232“…how do you know that you know?”

With this, The Scripps Research Institute’s Ryan Shenvi delivers a captivating exposition of why the most important function of science is not to provide answers, but to ask more and better questions in order to advance our knowledge – and what is critical to this process.

From CS Lewis, one of the greatest literary critics and debate masters of the 20th century, to Karl Popper, grandfather of science philosophy, to his own use of the scientific method to overturn assumptions about processes in metabolic reactions — and perhaps provide better preventive treatments against malarial infection — Ryan weaves a fascinating and engaging proof of one of the most fundamental, but most oft forgotten facts about science. As Karl Popper wrote: “There is no such thing as proof in science…science advances only by disproof.”

With some interesting stops along the way to ask — and answer — simple questions like “is water really blue?” Ryan goes beyond a convincing proof of Popper. What qualities enable this process of continual disproof we call the scientific method?

Ryan’s vital message is the absolute necessity of imagination and critical thinking in asking the questions that advance this process of “disproof,” and give us assurances that we do know what we know.

Watch Ryan Shenvi – Strong Inference, then browse more programs in the Saturday Science series.

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